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Waitstill and Martha Sharp

In February 1939, Waitstill Sharp, a young Unitarian minister from Boston, and his wife Martha left for Czechoslovakia on a refugee mission. For months the Unitarian Church had been receiving alarming reports from Prague over the plight of refugees.The Sharps arrived in Prague, home to the largest Unitarian church in the world, with $28,000 in monetary aid. The Unitarian church was already a step in front of the Nazis, having set up a secretive network of volunteers and agencies to secure the safe passage of both Jews and non-Jews out of Prague. The task became even more difficult when on March 15, 1939 the Nazis entered Prague. For the next five months, the Sharps continued their work undaunted by the presence of the Gestapo nor the danger of being arrested. In August 1939, the couple left Prague and headed back to the United States, barely escaping arrest.

Only 10 months later, the Sharps returned to Europe on their second mission, setting up a refugee office in Lisbon, Portugal. Eventually, they made their way to Nazi controlled France, to find ways to help refugees escape. In an elaborate plan, the Sharps helped a renowned German Jewish author, Lion Feuchtwanger, and his wife escape to New York via Spain. During their sixth months stay in France, the Sharps worked closely with another American rescuer Varian Fry.

Finally, in December 1940, after rescuing nearly 2,000 people from the horrors of Nazi persecution, Waitstill and Martha Sharp returned to the United States. Following the war, Martha Sharp remained very active in efforts to assist the Jews around the world and the establishment of Israel.

Sources: Jerusalem Post Online Edition. "American couple to be honored as 'Righteous Gentiles'"